Thunder Draft Prep: Trade-Up Candidates

Thunder Draft Prep: Trade-Up Candidates

The NBA Draft is one week away, and this one feels important for the Thunder. The organization has the 21st pick (the same slot Mitch McGary was taken… yikes), and Oklahoma City needs to hit with the selection for several reasons.

The Thunder needs NBA-quality rotation players. They carried Semaj Christon, Kyle Singler, Norris Cole and Josh Huestis on the roster last season, and all were either negative or non-contributors. OKC also needs talent on low salary due to the cap restraints they are in, and the draft is best way to do that. The greatest value in the draft is typically toward the top, so today the focus will be trade-up candidates Luke Kennard, OG Anunoby, Frank Ntilikina and Zach Collins.

(A huge shoutout to Michele Berra and Nicolò Ciuppani at Chart Side for doing a massive amount of work for this series. You guys are the best.)


Luke Kennard: SG — Duke

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OFFENSE

Plus:

  • High basketball IQ and toughness
  • Excellent vision off the bounce, can pass while keeping the dribble alive
  • Can finish with both hands
  • Intangibles master, works hard every possession
  • Improved ball handler, might work as a handler in P&R
  • Doesn’t shy away from contact

Minus:

  • Not active as screener when not directly involved as finisher
  • Can struggle against length when creating off the dribble, uses floater too frequently
  • No quick first step to beat his man from the dribble
  • Plays below the rim, not a good leaper
  • Uses his turnaround jumper in traffic a lot, not effective against length

 

SHOOTING SPLITS

<5ft / 5-7Ft / Mid / Corner / Above The Break 

EFG:  59.2% / 55.6% / 47.1% / 78.0% / 61.6%

VOL:  20.2% / 9.30% / 28.9% / 10.3% / 31.2%

DEFENSE

Plus:

  • Good awareness of his positioning on the court, rarely loses his man
  • Smart, knows when to close out on shooters and when to let them drive
  • Good timing on closeouts, but not overly effective due to his limited length

Minus:

  • Lack of lateral mobility, struggles against guards with quick first step
  • Slow to recover in P&R when he gets caught in screens
  • Can’t stay in front of his man
  • Struggles to fight against screens (even weak ones)
  • Limited effort in the post when posted up, doesn’t really try to bother opponents
  • Not always in a good defensive stance, caught many times in upright position

FIT WITH THE THUNDER

The Thunder needs more high basketball IQ players that can shoot, and Kennard is exactly that. His offensive game is more mature than most players in this draft, and he can score from three, off the bounce, is a great spot up shooter and moves really well without the ball. He has good size for a shooting guard, and he can even play some point guard in a pinch. His offensive game is ready now, the only question is where are the minutes? He plays the same position as Victor Oladipo and Alex Abrines, and if OKC plans on developing Abrines like most think they will, Kennard doesn’t make a ton of sense as a trade-up candidate. If they draft him as a point guard? Yes, of course. Sit down, Semaj.

His shot creation might be a little overrated, so it’s unlikely he will be able to create his own shot right away against NBA length and athleticism. His defense is also a big question mark. He has good IQ on that end, but doesn’t always give great effort and his lack of lateral quickness will make him look silly against most NBA guards. Billy Donovan often prioritizes defense over offense in role players, so his readiness as an offensive player might be overshadowed by his inability to defend.

Kennard’s ability to shoot threes, pass, and create space fulfills a huge need for the Thunder if they are able to move up. However, his lack of quickness and defensive skills put him at an immediate disadvantage.


OG Anunoby: SF — Indiana

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OFFENSE

Plus:

  • Prototypical body for a versatile forward in modern NBA
  • Lightning-quick first step from the post and attacking closeouts
  • Willing to post-up smaller players, good spin move
  • Good IQ, positions himself well on the court
  • Doesn’t give up on plays
  • Aggressive rebounder

Minus:

  • Not overly aggressive with the ball in his hands, lacks dribble skills, can’t use his left hand
  • Horrible pull-up shooting mechanics, can’t transition from dribble to jumper. Running layups also an issue
  • Not enough playmaking ability, slow passer
  • Raw footwork and overall offensive polish

SHOOTING SPLITS

<5ft / 5-7Ft / Mid / Corner / Above TB

EFG:   74.6%  / 42.8% / 33.3% / 15.0% / 55.7%

VOL:  54.9% /  5.74% / 2.46% / 8.20% / 28.7%

DEFENSE

Plus:

  • Elite frame, great wingspan and lateral agility
  • Versatile on defense, might end up playing some minutes at the 5
  • Elite rebounder, uses closeouts, great positioning
  • Terrific post defender
  • Active hands, perfect timing, good help instincts
  • When he can make contact with his man, he’s incredible.

Minus:

  • Can get caught up on screens due to limited footwork
  • Not entirely comfortable in sliding+overcoming screens
  • Average in close out due to focus/footwork.
  • Concern about his previously torn ACL, might lose some athleticism
  • Tends to over help, leaving his man open for easy jumpers

FIT WITH THE THUNDER

OG Anunoby is a “Thunder Player.” He has crazy athleticism, works hard, has an NBA-ready body with great length and is already a terrific defender….  Yet he is incredibly raw on the offensive end.

Sam Presti has shown he is willing to gamble on prospects like this. OG can play both forward positions, and some small ball center. He also has a high ceiling and a decently high floor given his defensive ability. He could be 80% of Kawhi Leonard or he could be Al Farouq Aminu. Aminu is good, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t want to give up an asset to draft an Aminu clone when you already have Andre Roberson. There is the thought that he could be a Roberson replacement, but if you indeed give up an asset to trade-up, you aren’t exactly improving your team with that move. 

The most concerning thing about his shooting is his career 52% from the free throw line. This is typically the strongest indicator of the kind of shooter a college player is. Of course players can get better, but we all know Roberson works on his shot all the time… and well… you know. He also does not have natural feel on the offensive end. He is a team player, but lacks the court vision to find teammates with timely passes.

OG has great potential and defensive prowess. If he can develop his corner three, he can be great. In a modern day NBA where defenses switch everything and floor spacing is extremely important, he could deliver the help Westbrook needs in a big way.

On the other hand, if he doesn’t develop his offensive skill, you are looking at Al-Farouq Aminu or possibly worse. He still struggles in his pick-and-roll defense and needs to polish his footwork on both ends. He’s also coming off a torn ACL, and his status for the season is still unknown. He has recently fallen in a few mock drafts, signaling that maybe his health is more of a concern than previously thought. Overall, if you are looking for a gamble, OG is an interesting one. He has shown flashes of an offensive game, and would be a playable project for the Thunder. He can come in and play minutes off the bench right away, but could eventually become a starter if his shot comes along.


Frank Ntilikina: PG — France

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OFFENSE

Plus:

  • Confidence with NBA range, isn’t afraid of taking jumpers.
  • Great jumper mechanics (maybe a tad slow) when open
  • Good full-court runner, plays smart and passes with ease in transition
  • Uses size to score and pass
  • Makes good use of screens, understands the game
  • Good patience and timing in P&R situations

Minus:

  • Raw playmaking skills, loses control of himself once he passes his defender, tends to jump and force passes
  • Rushes his shot and sways his follow-through when guarded
  • Bad dribbler, keeps the ball away from his body, struggles to hide the ball from defenders, botches crossovers, can’t handle full court pressure
  • Limited ability to create separation
  • Settles for floaters (with bad mechanics), struggles against taller defenders

 

SHOOTING SPLITS

<5ft / 5-7Ft / Mid / Corner / Above TB

EFG:  64.7% / 40% / 43.1% / 77.6% / 53.1%

VOL:  24.52% / 2.40% / 27.9% / 13.9% / 31.3%  

DEFENSE

Plus:

  • Unbelievable footwork, lightning-quick movement, always perfect foot position
  • Good wingspan, keeps the attacker in front of him, hard to beat from the dribble
  • Great commitment on defense, never rests his body, always in defensive stance even away from the ball
  • Good shot blocker, able to chase down opponents
  • Quick hands and good timing, disrupts opponent’s dribble, can catch lobs
  • Can shrink when avoiding screens, tries to recover all the time

Minus:

  • Ability to guard multiple positions is a question mark

FIT WITH THE THUNDER

Frank Ntilikina is a very interesting trade-up candidate. The Thunder would have to at least get up to number 10, or likely higher to acquire him. This makes him the most unlikely of options, but still intriguing. His ability to guard both point and shooting guards makes him someone that can easily play with Westbrook, and his ability to shoot from the perimeter also makes him a “playable project” from day one.

The Thunder is in desperate need of a backup point guard. OKC could go get a veteran PG this summer through free agency, but getting Ntilikina would provide great potential next to Russ, something OKC can’t get through free agency. Frank is a player in the mold of a George Hill type point guard. He will be a killer on defense, and has shown the ability to hit threes. He’s not great in the pick-and-roll or creating for himself yet, but he shows flashes and is still only 19.

A big concern is his age. Westbrook is in his prime and ready to win now. Why draft a 19-year-old? Admittedly this isn’t ideal, but OKC getting another star next to Russ is not an easy task. The Thunder is not attracting big name free agents, so that leaves trade or the draft. Most teams that are trading stars want young talent back. While the Thunder have some, none of them would help pluck away a Paul George or Jimmy Butler (Sorry everyone, even though Kanter for Paul George works in the trade machine, that’s not happening).

Having a player like Ntilikina to either develop or trade is an upgrade for the Thunder in every way. If they have the ability to trade for, say, the 10th pick (anything is possible with the Kings) and Frank is there, he has high upside and plays a position of need for the Oklahoma City.


Zach Collins: PF/C — Gonzaga

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OFFENSE

Plus:

  • Active and dynamic on court at all times, smart positioning
  • Good touch around the rim, isn’t afraid of contact and has good mechanics
  • Active offensive rebounder, good leaper
  • Showed flashes from the post, might improve with time
  • Can play both roles in the frontcourt, can set screens, pound the ball inside or stretch the floor

Minus:

  • Lack of any playmaking skill, offense dies when he has the ball
  • Need to add strength to lower body, can be moved easily by stronger defenders
  • Lacks of confidence from long range, steps over the line while shooting
  • Foul prone on offensive board, struggles to stay in the game

SHOOTING SPLITS

<5ft / 5-7Ft / Mid / Corner / Above TB

EFG:  71% / 45% / 50% /  0% / 75%

VOL:  73.1% / 9.43% / 7.55% / 0.47% / 9.43%  

DEFENSE:

Plus:

  • Great wingspan, height and solid leaper, has great timing for blocks
  • Can be effective as a single defender and as helper
  • Covers the floor with his wingspan and mobility, can play as a 4 or 5 on defense
  • Good on closeouts, doesn’t spare his body on defense
  • Doesn’t back down physically, isn’t afraid of bumping into opponent’s body
  • Great effectiveness in zone defense, recovers quickly and protects the rim at will

Minus:

  • Foul prone, struggles to understand when to stop defending
  • Defending against smaller players is a question mark, didn’t find enough competition at Gonzaga
  • Lacks strength and a bigger frame for guarding NBA players in post

DEFENSIVE SHOOTING SPLITS

<5ft / 5-7Ft / Mid / Corner / Above TB

EFG: 30.3% / 45.2% / 39.7% / 27.3% / 44.7%

VOL: 58.9% / 8.66% / 16.2% / 3.07% / 13.1%  

Advanced Statistical Profile

Offense/Defense situation splits

[infogram id=”zach_collins-3397″ prefix=”bsy” format=”interactive” title=”Zach Collins”]

Zone/Man/Transition – SPLIT (100 Poss) *Kpass = pass that leads to a shot

[infogram id=”zach_collins_chart_2″ prefix=”z6D” format=”interactive” title=”Zach Collins Chart 2″]

DEFENSIVE IMPACT

[infogram id=”zach_collins_chart_3″ prefix=”UCq” format=”interactive” title=”ZACH COLLINS CHART 3″]

FIT WITH THE THUNDER

No. No way. Not reading this. The Thunder don’t need another big. Please no, don’t do this.

Ok… calm down. The Thunder do not currently need another big, this is true. But… if Oklahoma City does find a trade partner for Enes Kanter, and Taj Gibson walks… then they could use another big. What if Steven Adams backup could block shots, shoot threes, score around the basket, and defend closeouts well? Well, that would be Zach Collins. He is an absolute monster and has an aggressive demeanor that fans would love.

The Thunder defense would never suffer with Collins as a backup. Opponents shot just above 30% around the basket when Collins was defending. He has great timing in altering and blocking shots, and good quickness to play in the modern NBA for a center.

Offensively he is a stud. He can score around the basket, hit jumpers, and has shown the ability to stretch out to three. His real limitation is in creating for others. Collins has not shown an ability to create for his teammates out of the post or high post. Rather, he is a play finisher. Collins could fit next to Steven Adams in the right matchup due to his ability to shoot from the perimeter. However, he would not be a full-time power forward, but could come in and play right away as a backup center. He will foul a lot, which is not uncommon for rookie centers. Steven Adams averaged 6.1 fouls per 36 minutes during his rookie season, and Collins would likely follow in his footsteps.

Should the Thunder draft a big man? Probably not. Is Zach Collins an absolute beast who would help the second unit offense and defense? Probably so.